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Grammar detail: あげる, くれる, もらう

あげる, くれる, もらう - giving and receiving
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In Japanese, three main verbs are used to indicate giving and receiving: あげる, くれる and もらう. These are 'directional' verbs: when to use which verb is dependent on who performs the action, and who receives the result of the action. もらう means 'receive', and あげる and くれる both mean 'give', but with different implications about who is doing the giving. It is important to be able to distinguish which verb to use when, as in many cases the subject is omitted.

あげる

あげる is used when the giving is done by the speaker or someone/something the speaker represents or is associated with (family, workplace, sporting team, etc).
カバンあげた
I gave her a bag.
In the case where both a subject (giver) and recipient (of the gift) are included in the sentence, the recipient is marked with に:
わたし
ゆうじん
友人
カバンあげた
I gave a bag to my friend.
あげる can also be used to express a situation in which the speaker describes a third-person giving something and the speaker has no association with the recipient. Therefore the very same sentence カバンをあげた can mean 'He gave her a bag'. Of course, in cases where the subject has been omitted, we can assume the subject has already been established.

くれる

くれる which also means 'to give', is used by the speaker to describe the giving action of another person to the speaker or somebody of close association to the speaker.
このチョコレートくれた
She gave me these chocolates.
In the case where the subject and recipient are included in the sentence, the recipient is marked with に:
やました
山下
さん
わたし
このチョコレートくれた
Mr Yamashita gave me chocolate.
The following is an example of when くれる is used for 'give' when describing something that was given to somebody who is of close association to the speaker. あげる would never be used in this kind of situation.
ゆうじん
友人
ちち
ほん
くれた
My friend gave my dad a book.

もらう

もらう means 'receive' or 'get'. This verb is concerned with the receiving direction, so it is straightforward in comparison to あげる and くれる. It is used to describe 'receive' when the speaker or somebody who is of close association are the recipients.
たなか
田中
さんカップもらった
I got a cup from Ms Tanaka.
もらう is also used when speaking about a third-person recipient:
いとこリサちゃんプレゼントもらった
My cousin got a present from Lisa.
However, note that もらう can not be used if the giver is the speaker. It would be incorrect to say for example いとこは私にプレゼントをもらった (my cousin got a present from me). To express this idea, you would make the speaker the subject and use あげる, i.e.: いとこにプレゼントをあげた。
Notice that the particle に is used to indicate the person from whom the gift was received. You may also encounter the use of から in place of に - they are interchangeable when もらう is used to talk about receiving items, gifts, etc.
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Words used in this grammar

0
ichidan verb, transitive verb
1. to raise; to elevate  (see also: 手を挙げる)
2. to do up (one's hair)  (see also: 髪を上げる)
(click the word to view an additional 24 meanings and 3 forms, examples and links)
Ichidan verb - kureru special class, transitive verb, auxiliary verb
to give; to let one have; to do for one; to be given  (くれ is an irregular alternative imperative form; often written with kana only)
(click the word to view an additional 1 form, examples and links)
0
'u' godan verb, transitive verb
1. to receive; to take; to accept  (often written with kana only)
auxiliary verb, 'u' godan verb
2. to get somebody to do something  (follows a verb in "-te" form; often written with kana only)
(click the word to view an additional 1 form, examples and links)

Kanji used in this grammar

シ   わたくし    わたし I, myself   
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ユウ   とも friend   
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ジン   ニン   ひと person   
サン   やま mountain   
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カ   ゲ   した below, under   しも bottom part   もと under (influence)   さげる to lower, to reduce   さがる to be lowered   くだ to descend   くだ to judge   くださる to give   おろす to drop off (passenger)   おりる to get off (train)   
フ   ちち father   
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ホン   book   もと origin   
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デン   た rice field   
チュウ   ジュウ   なか middle   
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